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Info ARC Pro app - the missing manual?
#1

   

I really like ARC Pro. In my opinion it is a fabulous entry-level digital slot car system. ARC Pro doesn't do what some of us are used to from the C7042 Advanced 6-car Powerbase (APB), upgraded with its after-market computer-based software, pit sensors and wireless controllers - but ARC Pro does most of it, rather more simply and for much less cash.

It does work well out of the box, but only if the 24-page ARC Pro Quick Start Guide is used as a bible - especially for car and controller connections. The Quick Start Guide gives a very quick (two-page) overview of the app and there is more on the ARC Pro page of the Scalextric website, including the chance to download a pdf copy of the all-important Quick Start Guide. What you get about the app in the Guide are the two pages attached below.

Apart from those overviews, there is no manual to using the ARC app. I was very comfortable with exploring the app without a manual and I quickly figured out what it did, how to set up races and to trouble-shoot issues. I do that will most other apps on my phone, iPad and computer. However, I appreciate not everyone is so comfortable with that.

There were early calls for a written manual for the app. It wasn't something Scalextric were likely to produce, so it was going to be a labour of love for an enthusiast. I made a start... Having helped out answer questions about the ARC app on the official Scalextric forum and elsewhere, I quickly realised that any written guide, if it would cover everyone's issues, would end up about the length of the Bible - Old and New Testaments combined.

I think the Scalextric forum is still a good place to find info and ask questions, but maybe this is a good opportunity to collect some of the key basics about the app and common issues that some users find difficult to get their heads round. I'm going to start with what I call the 'Rule of Three Colours'...


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#2

The Rule of Three Colours - getting your car to count laps

For ARC Pro to count laps, there are two considerations - a number of hardware-based issues and one important software step when you set up the race in the ARC app software. In the ARC Powerbase, there are two sensors, the first that is triggered by a black guide breaking the IR beam in the slot, prompting the second to pick up the ID of the car via the chips IR emitter. The guide must pass before the IR LED and the car must travel from right to left, with the 'ARC PRO' text on the track facing you. So that's three hardware issues - a black guide, LED behind the guide and right to left.

The rule of three colours is the software issue - and has tripped up many people. The three colours are:

1. Connect Controllers (p8 & p9 of the Quick Start Guide)

2. Connect Cars (p10 of the Quick Start Guide)

3. Car/Driver set-up in the ARC app.

The first two colours are set using the Quick Start Guide - a controller connected to red on the powerbase will control a car also connected to red. To function with the app, that car/driver needs to be set up with the red tile in the app. By default, the cars are listed in colour order in the app. If you have set up a two-car race, you'll have red and green. A four-car race will have red, green, blue and yellow. And so on... The car connected to red on the powerbase must be set up in the first tile - which also has a red border. This is how it looks as the race in running, with the coloured border of each tile:

   

Of course it is possible to customise the colours in the set-up menu - to choose, say, white, yellow and green - but you have to be careful and the app can, sometimes, get glitchy. I tend to treat the app nicely and run with the default order.

To save time, I often use the coloured helmet icons in the app rather than car pictures. So red always has the red helmet in the set-up tile, green has the green helmet etc. To keep things simple, you could also attach a small coloured dot to each of the cars when they are connected to the powerbase - or keep a list on a piece of paper. The ARC controllers have coloured lanyards that should - of course - always correspond to the colour they are attached to on the powerbase. A full set of six coloured lanyards comes with a boxed ARC Pro controller and with the ARC Pro upgrade kit.
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#3

I have placed these posts from Woodcote in a PDF document and have made it available from my own cloud folder.

Here is the link to download: link removed

Thanks again Woodcote.

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#4

Hi Johnno. I appreciate the sentiment and thank you for including the source on your pdf. Although my hope is that people will use the info I've written on Slot Racer Online - and perhaps save a copy for personal use - I am uncomfortable about my text and photos being turned by a third party into the 'missing manual' and hosted elsewhere.

My plan is to add a new post every couple of weeks and build up a resource here on Slot Racer Online. By all means link to this thread so more people can find it, but please leave the info here so it can be viewed as a complete body of work that is clearly attributed to the author. Thank you for your understanding.
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#5

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#6

   

I'm going to be introducing some race set-up basics by looking at a British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) format that I have put together for digital club racing and adapted for ARC Pro at home. The format attempts to simulate a typical BTCC weekend using the fantastic BTCC cars produced by Scalextric. The schedule goes something like this:

1. Qualifying Session
2. Race One
3. Race Two
4. Race Three (reverse grid)

The format includes simulating success ballast, but otherwise uses few of the ARC Pro app simulations. Using this BTCC format shows how ARC Pro can simulate real motor sport events - using lots of imagination, but resisting the temptation to turn on all the app features. Less is often more...

1. Qualifying Session

This is the first competitive action of a BTCC weekend. I set up the session as an 'Endurance' race from the Race Mode screen. This gives me more control over the settings and - importantly - allows a timed session, rather than a set amount of laps as is offered in the 'Practice' mode or the 'Qualifier Laps' in the 'Grand Prix' mode. I also use Endurance mode for practice and qualifying sessions as the race stops when the time runs out - all the cars do not need to be on track to trigger the race end as they do in a lap race or in practice mode.

         

The race is set up for ten minutes - plenty of time to get cars running nicely and to set a fastest lap that will determine grid positions for Race One. Of course, any work on the car must be done via a trip to the pit lane - there is no stopping out on track, which causes a unnecessary hazard for other cars. Although there will be none of the simulations - Fuel Use, Tyre Wear, KERS, Incidents or Weather - in the BTCC races, I do sometimes add the Tyre Wear simulation to qualifying. That means cars must pit every ten laps or so. There is no extra grip from new tyres, but it means that there will be times when fewer cars are on track, which might allow an opportunity for a clear run and a quick lap...

         

Clicking 'Driver Setup' I go to the 'Choose Driver' screen where I can add or remove drivers (minimum 2, maximum 6) depending how many racers are qualifying. If there are more than six drivers, it would be necessary to divide them into groups - ideally of equal size - and run separate sessions. As you can see, I have chosen to run the colours in default order (Red, Green, Blue etc) and chosen to have corresponding coloured helmets as the driver icons. Clicking on the Green driver (Driver 2) takes me to 'Driver Setup' where I can change the driver name, image, car name and set specific values for the driver - fuel load, max power and throttle curve - and also gives me an option to calibrate the low speed for the car (see pages 16 & 17 of the ARC Pro Quick Start Guide) and toggle the controller rumble on or off. I cannot imagine any reason to turn the rumble off - it means you can concentrate on racing and only look at the screen when prompted by a rumble. I have left all the settings on their default values for now.

         

The 'Back' button moves you back to the previous menu, or - when all the settings for all the drivers are done - you can tap 'Let's Race' at the bottom to bring up the race screen, then tap 'Start Race' which brings up the start lights...

         

The Endurance race screen shows all the drivers, plus number of laps, last lap time, time remaining and best lap time. For our BTCC qualifying session, the best time is all we are worried about. The graphic to the right of the helmets indicates tyre use - I sneakily added that simulation to this session. As you can see in the ARC Pro Quick Start Guide (p.18 & 19), the graphic starts green, gradually going down by a set amount each lap, until it goes orange, then red, then the 'PIT' icon comes up and the controller rumbles. At this point you must pit your car in the pit lane - see page 13 of the Quick Start Guide - press and hold the lower brake button on the ARC controller (with the 'X') until the graphic is back to green and the 'GO' icon comes up. If you pit too late, the red graphic will flash and your speed will be limited to your car's low-speed calibration until you pit and change tyres. Practicing with this one feature is the basis for understanding all the other simulations in ARC Pro and executing a perfect pit stop and playing with pit stop strategy.

I won't talk you through the race - that's all part of learning and having fun. At the end of the ten minutes, click on 'More Stats' to study all the results in detail - and to save and share them, if you want, via the 'Options' button. Don't forget to write down the fast time for each racer!
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#7

   

2. Race One

The grid for Race One is set by the fastest laps achieved in the qualifying session and the pole-sitter gets a bonus point for the championship. With six cars or less, the race is a straightforward sprint over a set number of laps using only the 'Jump Start Penalty' and 'Yellow Flag' features of the ARC app. If we had more than six cars, then the top three or four qualifiers automatically start in the feature race - with the others taking part in a 'B final' to fill the final places in the main race. Like the BTCC races, the action should be fast & furious - I've chosen 'Grand Prix' from the Race Mode menu and then tapped on 'Number of Laps' and chosen 20.

         

I've also tapped on Jump Start Penalty and chosen the 4 second option - that will add 4 seconds to a car's race time if it jumps the start. I toggled-on the Yellow Flag feature so the toggle switch is to the right and the background shows up green - that indicates a feature is active. All the other features are off - their toggle switches are to the left and the backgrounds greyed-out. Tapping 'Driver Setup' shows that we still have the same drivers as in the Endurance race for the qualifying session. The cars are the same and the settings - Fuel Load, Max Power, Throttle Curve, Calibration and Controller Rumble - are unchanged.

         

Starting the race is the same as before and the race display is similar - laps completed / total laps, last lap time, race time elapsed and best lap time. There is no need for pit stops in the BTCC race, but if there is a big pile up that blocks the track, there is the option of a yellow flag. The Yellow Flag feature is activated by tapping the race screen during the race - a waving yellow flag appears in the centre of the screen. The cars are then limited to their calibrated low speed until the screen is tapped again - the race continues, but at a safe speed, during which the crashed cars are re-slotted. I don't always use the yellow flag, but it feels quite authentic in the cut-and-thrust of a BTCC race.

Don't forget to record the results on paper or in a spreadsheet and also give a bonus championship point to the driver with the fastest lap. The standard BTCC points system is: 20-17-15-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. In the More Stats pages, you can also tell from the graph who has lead a lap - and each of those drivers gets one bonus point for leading a lap during the race. If a 'B final' is run, race points (7th position - that's 9 points - onwards) are awarded to those not 'stepping-up', but the bonus points for fastest lap and leading a lap are only awarded for the feature race.

   


3. Race Two

The starting grid for the second race is the finishing order of the first - the Race One winner starting on pole (no bonus point this time).  Race Two is also where 'Success Ballast' comes in. This slows down the top drivers from Race One. After the first race weekend of the championship, the championship leaders carry 'Championship Success Ballast' into qualifying and Race One of subsequent weekends. It's a crucial feature of the BTCC, so it is important we simulate it in our ARC Pro version. We do this by using the 'Max Power' feature - which can also be used to slow down novice drivers, handicap better drivers or simulate differently performing cars (eg a 1960s saloon car vs a 2019 Formula One car) in other formats.

             

In the Grand Prix race, we need to go to Driver Set-up, tap on the driver and scroll down past Fuel Load to Max Power. Tapping on Max Power gives us options of 100, 75, 50, 25 and Custom - all percentages. The Custom setting means any value from 1 to 100% can be keyed-in. Testing on a small-ish home track, I know that reducing the Max Power setting has a different impact depending on whether the cars are running with traction magnets or with them removed. I started with using a Custom setting of 80% for the Race One winner and 90% for the runner-up. I found at 90% that lap times dropped by 10% for non-mag cars and hardly at all for those with magnets. At 80% lap times dropped by around 15% for non-mag cars and by 20% for magnet cars!

For cars running without magnets, the 80% and 90% reduction works quite well in a four-car field. On larger grids, I might use 80% for the winner, 85% for second, 90% for third and 95% for fourth. With the standard magnets cars, I now run 80% for the winner and 85% for the runner-up in a four-car field. Of course, the result usually comes down to whoever drives the best, but the ballast can make a difference to the result. If you want success ballast to have a bigger impact on the result, simply reduce the Max Power even more. Be careful with standard cars with magnets - there will be a point when they are full-throttle all the way round and you might strain the motor (it will get hot).

Using success ballast via the Max Power setting means carefully recording the settings and remembering to change them for the next race. Having a race sheet on paper or in a spreadsheet makes this much easier.

   


4. Race Three - Reverse Grid

The grid for Race Three is a complete reversal of the result of Race Two - the winner starts last and the last place car in Race Two starts on pole position (no bonus point awarded). This makes it very interesting if there is a 'B Final' - especially as Success Ballast still applies to the top cars from Race Two! That's not to say the Race Two winner can't fight their way through to win Race Three, but it will be quite a challenge and an exciting way to finish off the BTCC day. There's nothing new to set up in the ARC app, but it is important to keep everything written down on paper or in a spreadsheet - including who gets ballast and how much - as everything is so topsy-turvy in this race.

One feature of the BTCC weekend that can't be simulated by ARC Pro is the option tyre choice. However, with the Scalextric BTCC cars having wheels that take Slot.it tyres, you could run two different compounds. At the start of the day each driver secretly nominates which one of the three races they will use the 'option' tyres. It's not something I've done, yet...

A final aspect of the BTCC that dovetails nicely with ARC Pro digital competition is 'No Contact Racing' - any deliberate ramming, pushing or brake-testing is not allowed. Of course "rubbing is racing" in the BTCC, but - when a line is crossed - penalties are handed out. That might be a post-race time penalty, a grid penalty, points deduction or even disqualification. For digital racers it is important to always apologise for any on-track incidents, but also to be prepared for penalties for persistent or clearly deliberate offending. No Contact Racing should be an important principle of all digital slot car racing.
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#8

   

I'm going to take a brief pause from the fun of using the app to look at some issues of compatibility, faulty installs, instability and good housekeeping...

1. Device compatibility

When the ARC app was first developed back in 2013-14, the basic compatibility requirement was for a smart device to have Bluetooth version 4.0 BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) to allow the ARC app on the smart device to ‘talk’ to the powerbase. The right sort of Bluetooth required Android phones and tablets to have Android OS 4.4.2 (KitKat) or above; and for iPhones and iPads to have iOS 5.0 or above.

However, it has not proved to be that simple. What became clear was that some Android devices failed to connect to the ARC Pro powerbase and many more did not connect well enough to run the app or could not maintain a reliable connection. Those who know about these things explain that different manufacturers of Android devices use a variety of hardware and software configurations to drive the Bluetooth BLE. That’s too much variety for an app like ARC to handle.


   

As a result, the ARC compatibility list contains all the Apple devices that run Bluetooth v4.0, but only twelve Android devices of the hundreds available. Of course, the list is not exhaustive. Some users have found other Android devices that the ARC app works on. These are discussed on the ARC app compatibility thread on the Scalextric website discussion forum: https://www.scalextric.com/uk-en/forum/a...atibility/

Another worrying finding is that that newer models of those Android devices on the original list are not always found to be compatible. It seems that what ARC is trying to do just isn’t good for all Android devices. Other apps controlling electronic systems have suffered similar compatibility issues. What is incredibly frustrating is that most people probably have an Android phone, but not all are able to use it with ARC.

However, there is one piece of good news. The 2016 and 2017 versions of the Amazon Fire tablets have been found to work well with ARC and the app has been added to the Amazon Appstore, including the latest version in April 2018. Even better news is that the Fire Tablets are very good value for money. However, the very latest (2018) Fire 8HD tablet does have problems with the latest app, but works with the Legacy app. The development team know about this and are hopefully working on a fix.


2. The Legacy app

If you search 'Scalextric' in the App Store, Google Play or Amazon Appstore, you will find two ARC apps - one is the most recent (2018) 'Scalextric ARC' app, the other is the previous app, now called 'App Race Control (LEGACY)'. The Legacy app is no longer supported and won't receive any updates. However, it is a stable app and includes most of the features of the new version. If you are having problems with compatibility with the new app, it is always worth trying the Legacy app too - it can be an easy fix.


3. Faulty installs

Apparent incompatibility can sometimes be the result of a faulty install. If the app has never worked, it's always a good idea to delete out the app and try a fresh install. With my old iPhone 4s, the new app required five attempts - it now works fine. I can't say for sure why there was a problem, I re-started my Wi-Fi router, ensured a good signal and patiently did the repeated installs. Other people have reported similar issues, with success after a fresh install. This does seem to be a more common problem with particularly old devices, like my iPhone 4s.

On one occasion I needed to do a fresh install after a major iOS operating system upgrade on my iPad. It is worth keeping an eye out for headline OS upgrades, just in case this is the reason for a previously successful install turning bad.


4. App instability

Even if the app installs and works okay, instability can develop with some functions getting glitchy. The simple fix is to to close the app properly and then launch it again. Your settings remain, but instabilities disappear. The exact process is different for different devices and can be called 'hard close', 'force quit', 'force stop' etc. If this is not something you do routinely, it is good general housekeeping for your device and for the ARC app.


One cause of glitchy-mayhem that I have noticed is switching between digital and analogue mode. When you flick the switch (on the left side of the powerbase) the app changes from the ARC Pro version to the ARC Air one. I have found that if you switch while the app is open, it can cause all sorts of confusion (for the app and for the user). Before switching I recommend closing the app, then hard-stopping the app - switch the switch and then launch the app afresh.
 
You could go even further and - if you have a spare device - use one device for ARC Pro digital running and the other for analogue mode (ARC Air) running. That way, you have everything set up as you need it as soon as the app is open. I use ARC Air for public events - it's quicker for complete newbies to get the hang of - and I use my Fire 7 tablet exclusively for analogue running. At home, I really only use the app for digital racing with the app on my iPhone 4s or 2017 iPad 9.7".


5. Updates & reporting bugs

Scalextric have pledged to release regular updates of the ARC app to fix bugs across all three versions - iOS, Android and Amazon Fire. Some of the bugs will have been discovered by in-house testing, but this process will now depend heavily on ARC users reporting bugs. Updates appeared on a monthly basis soon after the release of the new app in April 2018, but these have tailed off. If you find a bug that is not fixed by closing the app, re-install or following the good housekeeping tips below, then it should be reported to the Scalextric team so they can test for it and pass their findings on to the app developers. The team will require:
  • Specific details of the problem
  • The specific set and cars you are using (include the C-numbers, if possible) plus any modifications
  • The ARC system you are using (ARC One, Air, Pro analogue or Pro digital)
  • Specific smart device make and model, plus operating system version
  • ARC app version and powerbase firmware version (see 'Settings' in the app)
Send these details to Hornby Customer Services: customerservices.uk@hornby.com


6. Good Housekeeping

As with any piece of software, I like to treat the ARC app gently and encourage it to work as effectively as possible. These are few things that work well for me:
  • Update your ARC app when prompted
  • Charge your device before a race session
  • Close the app properly at the end of a session - or before the start of a new one
  • Turn on powerbase before launching the app
  • If a glitch develops, hard-stop the app and relaunch
  • Get to know the app step-by-step and write notes of what you learn
  • To explore the app properly - even without racing - turn the powerbase on and connect the app
  • Set-up a race with the default order of colours - red, green, blue, yellow etc
  • Use only the features you need - I don't use the Garage and very rarely run a race with all the simulations switched on
  • Close the app before you unplug and power-down the powerbase.
Next time, it's back to using the app and to racing...
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#9

Good point on reporting bugs and or problems.
I never understand why people will moan and whinge on forums and other media but not tell the manufacturer directly!
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#10

(9th-May-19, 02:15 PM)dvd3500 Wrote:  Good point on reporting bugs and or problems.
I never understand why people will moan and whinge on forums and other media but not tell the manufacturer directly!
Yup agree with you there, and here is the link for Scalextric UK Forums for people to make contact directly:
Scalextric UK Forum, head there and post any official complaints, suggests regarding Hornby Products.

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